Saturday, December 7, 2019

MLB Trade Review: Padres acquire Pham, give up Renfroe in five player deal



          The San Diego Padres have acquired OF Tommy Pham and SS/RHP Jake Cronenworth from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for OF Hunter Renfroe, SS Xavier Edwards and a player to be named later.

          Pham has joined the long list of quality players the Rays traded after not being able to afford. Pham is only in his second season of arbitration, but he is already 31, so he will probably get a nice raise that was too much for Tampa Bay. This could re-start the cycle with Renfroe giving them a quality season(s) until being shipped off for more assets. For a team like the Padres, Pham is a great addition. While Renfroe is a great player, Pham can steal 20 bases and hit 20 home runs, walk 70 plus times a year and hit .270. He is also a pretty durable player. While Pham's one defensive run saved in 2019 is not great on the outside, in his 160 games in the outfield for the Rays, Pham did not make an error. He makes all the easy plays, which is sometimes what you need in a defender. Ever since Pham broke out in 2017 with the Cardinals, he has averaged 21.6 home runs a season, 21.6 stolen bases, has a .284 batting average and an OPS of .380. His WAR adds up to 13.6. However, His lowest WAR in that three year stretch came in 2019, with a 3.3 WAR. Pham has a career OPS of .844 and an OPS+ of 126. His age might scare away suitors, but he is still not a free agent until 2022, and will be arbitration eligible every year until then. In 2019, his only full season in Tampa Bay, Pham had a .273 batting average, with 21 home runs and 25 stolen bases in a career high 654 Plate Appearances.

          The least spoken about person involved in the trade is also the most intriguing player. Jake Cronenworth was the Rays' 17th best prospect according to MLB Pipeline, and he will slot into the same spot in the Padres' organization. Cronenworth will be 26 next month and hasn't made his MLB debut yet, which isn't appealing, but Pham did not make his debut until he was 26 and was not a regular until he was 29. A .312 hitter for the University in Michigan, Cronenworth also had 27 saves in his three years there. In 2015, the Rays picked him in the 7th round. In his first three minor league seasons, Cronenworth was primarily a shortstop, but with AAA Durham this past season, Cronenworth was given a pitching chance as an opener. Pitching in seven games (six starts), Cronenworth struck out nine batters and allowed four hits and no earned runs in 7.1 innings. While pitching for Durham, former MLB 50 home run hitters Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton where rehabbing against the Bulls. Cronenworth struck out Stanton and got Judge to ground out, showing he can get major leaguers out. Cronenworth's offensive numbers are impressive as well. He hit .334 with 10 home runs and a .934 OPS with Durham. With rosters expanding to 26 men, Cronenworth could make the Padres if he has a good spring.

          The replacement to Pham for the Rays will be Hunter Renfroe. Not to be confused with the Raiders' receiver with the same name, Renfroe's 2019 numbers don't look amazing. He hit .216 with a 31.2% K rate and a .778 OPS. However, Renfroe hit a career high 33 home runs. But he could have hit more if it wasn't for a terrible second half. Going into the all star break, Renfroe hit 27 home runs. He also had a .252 batting average, and a .921 OPS at that time. He is also a good defender, with making just one error and finishing with a 13 DRS. The first thing the Rays will try to do with Renfroe is figure out how he had an insane first half and work on stretching that out for an entire season, or as long as possible. While Pham is a top of the order guy, Renfroe is a middle of the order hitter. To replace Pham's presence at the number two hole, the Rays could keep Yandy Diaz, Austin Meadows and even Ji-Man Choi at the top two spots in the lineup, with Renfroe, Brandon Lowe and Avisail Garcia in the middle of the order, if Garcia re-signs. The Rays could add another discount bat to replace Garcia.

           Compared to Cronenworth, Xavier Edwards is a much more heralded prospect. Edwards was the 5th best prospect in a stacked Padres system, and is now the sixth best prospect in an equally stacked Rays system (all according to MLB Pipeline). Overall, MLB Pipeline has Edwards as the 72nd best prospect in all of baseball. The 20 year old is a long way from the majors, reaching as high as High-A. In 2019, Edwards had a .322 batting average with 34 stolen bases. He is not a power hitter, with just one home run. The 38th overall pick in 2018, Edwards might already be blocked in the Rays system. They have two young middle infielders in Willy Adames and Brandon Lowe starting at the major league level. Also, the 39th best prospect in all of the MLB is Vidal Brujan, another Rays prospect. Brujan is 21 and like Edwards, is a middle infielder. While Brujan could be dealt in a blockbuster trade, he could block Edwards, leading to Edwards potentially being flipped. Edwards is highly touted by scouts and has a good chance of being a star, leading to this being a potential steal for Tampa Bay, especially if the player to be named is a future stud.

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